Including the introvert

A lot of people who know me would laugh at the thought that I can be somewhat shy, but it’s true. In unfamiliar settings with people I don’t know well (or know at all for that matter), I can be extremely shy and uncomfortable. That uneasiness has sometimes been misinterpreted as snobbery, which makes me wince because nothing could be further from the truth.

I was in one of those unfamiliar settings this past weekend when we joined the husband’s former co-workers for dinner. The majority of these people have worked for the same employer for 25-plus years, and the husband was still considered one of the newbies when he resigned after 14 years.  They frequently spend time outside of work together, so their wives are all acquainted, as well. It appears to be a very tightly knit group. Don’t get me wrong; everyone is polite, but it’s understandable that I feel a little introverted.

While I’m quite outgoing within my comfort-zone, I have a glimpse of what it feels like to be an outsider. That insight has caused me to empathize with those who tend to be shy in social settings.

I remember a classmate walking into our 20th reunion and scanning the tables for a familiar face. If I had only attended high school with her, it’s doubtful I would have remembered her. In fact, I don’t think I have a memory of her from high school at all. I don’t think we had a single class together, and I’m pretty sure we weren’t involved in any of the same activities. However, we had attended the same church for a few years. To the best of my recollection, she was the only one in her family who attended church. Her neighbors brought her to Sunday School and church every week for a number of years, although I can’t recall when she started coming or when she stopped.

I watched her for a few moments expecting she was meeting some friends, but after a while it became apparent that was not the case. I approached her and asked if I could help her find someone, but she said she wasn’t really looking for anyone in particular. She explained that she’d been living out of the area for some time and just decided to come at the last minute. I knew my group of friends wouldn’t mind, so I invited her to join us at our table, which she did.

I think this is why I still keep in contact with that group of friends from high school. They weren’t and aren’t self-absorbed. They each introduced themselves to the classmate and tried to include her in the conversations. After dinner, I lost track of her as the rest of us mingled with friends at other tables, danced, took pictures, etc. I don’t remember her saying goodbye or leaving – perhaps she found her group of friends.

Whether at school or church, my only recollection of this classmate is that she was present. It must have taken a great amount of courage to attend the reunion alone with no guarantee that her friends from decades ago would be there. It’s not important whether she remembers me or the invitation to sit at our table, but I do hope she remembers feeling included.

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